By Kanda Yaemboonruang
Educational opportunities have been known to lift people out of poverty and propel them toward success. The same applies to Dr. Pham Minh Duyen, AIT alumnus of Environmental Engineering and Management within the School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD), whose life-changing moments were brought on by education.
Duyen spent his childhood in the forest area of Dak Nong province in Central Viet Nam where he was brought up. At 12 years of age, he came to a realization that education would be his only way out of poverty. At that time, electricity was something of a luxury for Duyen. However, darkness from the absence of fluorescent light could not deter his determination to study. He persisted in studying under the candlelight. “I saw my mom and dad worked both daytime and nighttime on a burnt-over land but they could not pull themselves out of debt and poverty. I took it upon myself that I must be the one who makes a change. I told myself education could change my life. I chose the path for myself, but the journey was not an easy one,” said Duyen as he went down his memory lane.
In order to fulfill his dreams of bringing himself and his family out of hardship, he moved to Ho Chi Minh City where he sought education that could provide him with the light brighter than a candle. At the same time, he worked several part-time jobs to support his family. While he was studying Environmental Engineering at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, he was already planning to pursue higher education. To do that, he knew proficiency in English would be essential, so he worked hard to improve it. He understood that it would take him further to places of great opportunities.
“I heard of Asian Institute of Technology as an international institute with many famous professors and students who come from many different countries. In early 2013, I attended a regional workshop where I met some of those people from AIT,” Duyen said. In spring of that year, he applied to AIT and received the Loom Nam Khong Pijai Scholarship or GMSARN Scholarship from the Royal Thai Government, a full scholarship covering 100 % of the tuition fees and living expenses. “My dream of studying abroad at a prestigious institute became a reality only because of this scholarship,” he firmly added.
After having graduated from AIT in 2015, he decided to further his education in Japan at Nagoya University through a scholarship from the Government of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. Currently, he is living in Japan, doing the postdoctoral fellowship at Nagoya University. His next goal is to become a faculty member at a highly acclaimed overseas institution.
“I am who I am because of AIT,” he proudly said. “AIT is a new world of professional academia, diversity, and various opportunities which have expanded my worldview. My advisor professor Chettiyappan Visvanathan (Prof. Visu) taught me all the necessary soft skills for human development — how to speak in public, how to prepare slides, how to write scientific paper, how to communicate with others, etc. I do not believe that I could learn all these things from other places,” Duyen explained.
In his views, Duyen is a living proof that education can and will change life. He further added: “It is like a wonderful story, education pulled me out of poverty, allowing me to become a person who obtained both master’s and Ph.D. degrees overseas. Working in academics, I can feel that my life is changing. I have a chance to discover the world of science, the world of multiculturalism and languages. I could visit prestigious universities and it sparked ideas of being more ambitious with my future. More importantly, I can say that education has brought smiles to my parents’ faces. AIT is the place where I started changing my life, and I wish the same for anyone who passed through this beautiful nurturing campus.”
Sharing his final thought upon reflecting his life story, Duyen said: “It does not matter where you come from, poor or rich, religious, or not, be ambitious for what you ought to be. Education will help you pull yourself together. Determination and endurance will allow you to go a long way. The happiness of your family will be a motivation engine for your journey.”